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According to the latest Greendex survey by the National Geographic Society, more people are eating local and organic foods and plan to consume less meat and bottled water. However, most also believe they lack enough information and influence to become more environmentally sustainable consumers. The survey, undertaken in collaboration with research consulting firm GlobeScan, measured consumption habits and attitudes in 18 countries. Each was scored on the relative size of its environmental footprint.
A new paper published in Futures urges discussions about unsustainable food consumption to include more consideration of consumer habits and practices. Responding to reports by the World Economic Forum and the European Commission, it hypothesises that technological innovations and ‘produce more with less’ approaches fail to take into account the varied and nuanced consumer attitudes that surround food, and therefore do not fully consider whether the public would ever actually adopt proposed solutions.
This study, undertaken by UK researchers from the University of Newcastle uses the extensive data set of 343 peer-reviewed publications in a meta-analysis to investigate ‘differences in composition between organic and non-organic crops/crop-based foods’. It suggests that there are ‘statistically significant’ differences between the production methods particularly with regard to a range of antioxidants.
This study, entitled "Gains to species diversity in organically farmed fields are not propagated at the farm level, investigates whether organic farming contributes to biodiversity at the farm level."
The report investigates consumers’ meat eating patterns, the relationship with BMI, and their willingness to eat less meat or to eat meat that they may perceive to be ‘better’ in some way – eg. organic or free range.
China’s agricultural system, environment and food supply is under great pressure from an increasing population, an intensive use of agro-chemicals and extensive food safety problems.
In cooperation with 13 European research and policy partners, FiBL (The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture) analysed ways in which local distribution channels and new networks between producers and consumers could be supported.
An analysis of 94 studies looking at land-use intensity and organic farming methods concludes that organic farming boosts biodiversity. The authors point out that even though research is currently biased towards developed countries (mostly UK and European climates) in temperate regions, organic farming is shown to increase the number of on farm species by around 34 percent.
The European Union is funding a project entitled PROteINSECT to investigate the efficacy and safety in using insect protein as a source of animal feed. The project will also investigate the potential for using insects for human consumption. Currently insect protein is only allowed in shellfish feed within the EU and forbidden for other animal feed or for human consumption.
IFPRI (the International Food Policy Research Institute) has released an issue brief on genetically modified crops in sub-Saharan Africa and their role in agricultural development. The report argues that many policy makers in sub-Saharan Africa lack information about GM crops’ potential, benefits, costs, and safety.
A new study by researchers at University of Calgary published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the long-term legacy of past fertilizer applications must be considered in reducing nitrate contamination of aquatic ecosystems. The study finds that nitrogen fertilizer leaks out in the form of nitrate into groundwater for much longer than was previously thought. The long-term tracer study revealed that three decades after synthetic nitrogen (N) was applied to agricultural soils, 12–15% of the fertilizer-derived N was still residing in the soil organic matter, while 8–12% of the fertilizer N had already leaked toward the groundwater.
With an anticipated expansion in demand for food in urban areas due to the world’s growing urban population, urban agricultural innovations are portrayed in this article as possible solutions. Aeroponic farming systems are one example: these systems allow for clean, efficient, and rapid food production. The crops, which protected from seasonal changes in weather, can be planted and harvested year round without interruption and without contamination from soil, pesticides, and residues. Because aeroponic growing environments are clean and sterile, the chances of spreading plant disease and infection are less common than in soil-based systems.
Tom MacMillan, the Soil Association’s Head of Innovation has written a blog for the UK research councils’ Food Security website where he profiles the Association’s Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme, which it is running in partnership with the Organic Research Centre and supported by the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation.